Whether you like Bollywood films or not, there’s no doubt that having one set in Australia – no less at UNSW in Sydney – and directed, written by and starring a former UTS student, will entice a few more first-time viewers than usual: both here and in India. It’s a love story that begins with a young Indian woman receiving a scholarship to study a Masters of Economics at UNSW. The rest of the plot might be predictable, but when we so rarely see one of our cities on film, it’s tempting to join in on the fun.
Prateek Chakravorty, director and writer of From Sydney with Love and starring as Raj Bakshi – who is unfortunately in the friend-zone for the entirety of this film – studied a Masters of Business Administration at UTS. He comes from a line of filmmakers, making his first feature under the umbrella of his grandfather’s film company. In a film in which seventy per cent of it is shot at Australian locations like Bondi Beach and the Opera House, it’s a particularly interesting move from an Australian perspective, especially because the media has so often latched on to stories of isolated incidents of Indian students having been attacked in Australia.
“I studied at UTS, and for me the experience was very good, so I made a film about it. What happened with the violence was about people being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was blown out of all proportion,” said Chakravorty.
The film had its world premiere at UNSW earlier this month, but will be primarily shown in India. To give you a sense of how many people will be seeing this film, it will play on 900 screens across India. Australia’s home grown Not Suitable for Children was received on 42 screens this year.
Chakravorty has also interestingly swayed away from casting huge Bollywood stars, who are usually the star attraction of any Bollywood film. And it’s a move that’s worked in his favour.
“I felt that [Bollywood’s] stars would not fall into the age bracket to portray university students convincingly. I also wanted complete creative control over my product and that was possible only with newcomers.”
In a film that will undoubtedly launch Chakravorty’s career, it will be interesting to chart whether this film marks a change in the number of Indian students coming to Australia – a number which has halved from 60,000 to 30,000 in less than three years – and on an entirely separate note, whether Australia will start to see more of itself in international cinema!
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